Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 24 January 2012 15:17
What do you feed a pet peeve? I’m not sure. Perhaps a pinch of self-righteous anger added with a bit of humble pie, mixed together with a dose of patience? Whatever it is, I am reasonably sure that everyone has at least one pet peeve hanging around the house or at work, and more often than not, has fed it from time to time.
What do you do when one pet peeve begets another? The short answer is, you deal with it as best you can.
My latest pet peeve has to do with the amount of space all airlines allow for passengers on small regional jets, more commonly known as “puddle jumpers.” In most cases, passengers traveling through the Wichita Intercontinental Airport will transport to larger airport hubs via these small jets. Exceptions apply on certain flights that have a higher traveler count per day.
Even so, economy class travelers must pour themselves into seats designed for a petite build, with barely enough space for the legs of a 5-foot, 8-inch frame. There is nothing about yours truly that is “petite.” “Big and tall” is more like it. At 6-foot-4, when sitting down my legs are jammed into the seat in front of me while my back is firmly thrust into my seat.
Immovable object, meet immovable object. And that’s without the front seat moving back into a reclining position.
Sitting down in a seat is difficult enough. Bending my legs into the form of a multi-angled pretzel stick and trying to place them under the seat in front of me is more than difficult, not to mention somewhat painful.
With my long legs, the seat’s height is insufficient to allow for movement from a normal, feet-below-knees position to feet under-the-seat without getting up off my seat. When the seat is moved back, the point of impact moves below the knees to the shin bone and pain increases as well.
Did I mention that airlines strongly suggest all passengers are to place their handbag luggage under that front seat as well? Where do you put your feet when there’s no more room to begin with?
Which brings me to pet peeve’s illegitimate offspring....
Last Saturday in Atlanta, I boarded a flight for home, looking forward to nearly two hours of uninterrupted bliss as the “red eye” flight was winging its way to Wichita. Alas, bliss faded as the passenger sitting in front of me began a determined struggle to recline as far back as possible.
Passenger B, a woman about my age, arrives on the plane and makes herself comfortable in the seat in front of Mr. Long Legs. Back from a long vacation cruise with husband and many friends—who accompany her on the plane ride back to Wichita—she is full of life and conversation.
“So far, so good,” I conclude.
Minutes into the flight, Mrs. B makes an attempt to move the seat back. My legs and my seat remains immovable. Perhaps thinking there’s something wrong with the seat, she tries to force it back with a greater sense of determination. The seat moves slightly, my knees hold as there is no place to go.
If Mrs. B quickly realizes the futility in making further attempts to crush, fold, spindle and mutilate those legs that have already been folded, spindled and painfully mutilated in order for Mr. Legs to assume the posture required by the airline, Pet Peeve’s offspring takes a nap and all is well.
All is not well, however.
I’ve been there, done this before. When I first began flying on a regular basis, I would bend over backward to accommodate and sacrifice my comfort for those of my fellow passengers.
As years passed, I began to modify my behavior, refusing to suffer physical anguish so somebody could sleep off a drug-induced hangover or because some adolescent thought the seat was a working circus toy, and for entertainment, would fling it back unexpectedly while others were drinking their beverage of choice.
Rather than willingly succumb to the numbing and painful experience, I would politely explain why moving the seat back would create extreme difficulty and then thank them for not trying to move any further.
OK. That was then. What do I do now? Do I risk a conversation and an escalation? Do I stay calm and say nothing? I favor staying calm and saying nothing.
Minutes later, Mrs. B makes another attempt to overcome my immovable objects. I try to sleep. My adrenaline is rising. I reassure myself, “Calm down, it can’t go on forever.”
More attempts follow. My knees are telling me the pain is increasing. She is getting my attention. Opening my eyes and peering into the darkened cabin, I can see her face above the top of the seat. She is staring into my eyes. She is angry but remains silent. I close my eyes. Surely, this is a dream like “Snakes on a Plane,” only it’s “Angry Grannies on a Plane.”
Minutes go by. We are more than halfway into our nearly two-hour flight. The angry seat slams into my knees once again. I open my eyes. Once again, she turns around, barely able to see above the seat. I am thinking about what I should say. She gets up, moves across her husband’s seat and sits in the empty seat by the aisle. Relief!
Ten minutes pass. Surprisingly, she does not move that seat backward. I realize the couple I’m sitting with might be her friends from the boat. A whole contingent of couples were talking loudly of all their activities; the partying, the drinking, the gambling.
I have my answer. I’m not important. They are. I choose to remain silent.
After returning from the restroom, Mrs. B returns to the seat in front of me. The assault resumes.
Final postscript: As we disembark, I overhear her conversation with her husband as she expressed frustration over not getting some sleep. He says nothing.
I admire that man. He knows when he can’t win an argument and when to keep silent.
I wonder if he has a pet peeve’s offspring like mine?